In the last six months, some of this year’s biggest international film festivals have already been hosted across several world capitals. We had the Cannes Film Festival in France recently, and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Now, the global gaze shifts to the Russian capital, which is now hosting the Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF). 

Slated to conclude on 29 June, the Moscow International Film Festival is one of the most reputed films events in the world. Over the course of the past 20 years, the jury at the festival has been headed by leading film personalities with global recognition including figures like Richard Gere, Theo Angelopoulos, Margarethe von Trotta, Alan Parker, Gleb Panfilov, Fred Schepisi, Luc Besson, Geraldine Chaplin, Héctor Babenco, Pavel Lungin, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf to name a few.

The program director of the Moscow International Film Festival is Kirill Razlogov, a culturologist. The selection committee is headed by a Russian film critic, named Andrei Plakhov, while the president of the festival is the Oscar-wining director and actor, Nikita Mikhalkov.

This year, the MIFF is into its 39th edition, and one of its themes is about celebrating 70 years of bilateral relations between India and Russia. The event has, for the first time ever, a specially curated segment, called the Indian Panorama, as part of the itinerary. It is for the first time in the history of the MIFF that an entire section is dedicated to Indian cinema, showcasing pathbreaking films from the mainstream as well as regional film industries here. The Indian Panorama is jointly curated by R.C. Dalal and Captain Rahul Bali and organised by Indian Film Festival Worldwide (IFFW) and Indian Films.

Guardian 20 spoke to R C Dalal, co-curator of IFFW  about the significance of Indian Panorama being incorporated into the Moscow International Film Festival 2017. He said, “What better way to celebrate 70 glorious years of India-Russia friendship? Indian Panorama will see the amount of love the film industry of India has gained. It will set new standards, a stage for the Indian film industry to explore new opportunities. Getting associated with the Moscow International Film Festival is a step closer towards our vision, taking Indian cinema to different parts of the world.”

The 39th Moscow International Film Festival would be raising its curtain with the screening of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Gulshan Grover’s Badman would be the opening film of the Indian Panorama.

Gulshan Grover, an old-timer in Bollywood, had this to say: “Badman is India’s first mockumentary. The audience in Russia will have an opportunity to see some great works of creative brilliance by master Indian filmmakers by way of these iconic Indian movies which will go a long way in strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two countries via cinema.  Indian Panorama shall spread the fragrance of India in  different parts of the world.”

The Indian Panorama event is a symbol of exemplary friendship and bilateral relations between India and Russia and will feature some of the finest Indian movies. Indian cinema is known for songs, dance and bright colours, but great changes are afoot within this iconic brand of cinema, some of which will be on display at the 39th  Moscow International Film Festival. 

Captain Rahul Bali, co-curator of the IFFW says, “Indian Panorama is a dream come true for us. We are going to create euphoria about India through films. The Indian Panorama is unique and a first of its kind event, due to its sheer reach across the Russian mainland. With a spectacular amalgamation of life, festivity, fashion, films, music and culture! We are ready to bring the feel of India alive in Russia, taking the Indo-Russian friendship to the next level.”

Indian films have been popular in Russia ever since the end of Stalin’s regime—Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’ Dharti ke Lal was the first Indian film to be dubbed in Russian. There is a channel on Russian TV dedicated to showing Indian films daily. All this appreciation and love for Indian culture called for another spotlight to be placed upon Indian films in Moscow. As a celebration of 70 glorious years of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the 39th Moscow International Film Festival will include a series of six Indian films. These include the Telugu film Baahubali: The Beginning, Hindi mockumentary Bad Man, Konkona Sen Sharma’s debut directorial A Death in the Gunj, Gujarati film Bey Yaar, Kannada film U Turn, Assamese film Kothanodi as well as Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. These will all feature in the Indian Panorama section.

The Moscow International Film Festival is one of the oldest in the world. For the first time it was held in 1935, with Sergei Eisenstein as the chairman of the Jury. Nevertheless, the festival’s history is usually traced back to 1959, when it became a regular event. It is noteworthy that the festival was reborn in the 1960s during the so called “period of thaw”, when film industry experienced an influx of filmmakers of a new generation whose spiritual experience was shaped by the great victory over fascism. In 1959, the opening ceremony of the first “thaw” festival was held in the grand Palace of Sports in Luzhniki,  Moscow. 

Talking further about the India segment at the festival, R.C. Dalal said, “For the first time in the history of the Moscow International Film Festival, the Indian Panorama, with its pan-India essence, is expected to be the main highlight of the event. Also, screenings of horror and thriller films will take place. This is a unique genre, in which there is a place for the tragic, the comic, and even the melodramatic. Action-packed scenes of different genres are collected: dramatic fantasy, mysticism, game action horror, suspense, psychological thriller, slasher, and, of course, such a particularly interesting and frightening layer as live horror films, or horror films, based on real events.”

He further added, “The event will also provide a platform to discuss the promotion of Russian-Chinese cinema and TV projects.The business platform, called the Annual Russian-Chinese Co-production Roundtable ‘The Silk Road’, will be one of the most significant events in the business program of the Moscow International Film Festival.” 

The festival, which opened on 22 June in Moscow, witnessed the presence of several members of the Indian film fraternity as well as a galaxy of film stars from Russia and the West. 

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